A Tribute to Maestro Julius Rudel

by Susan and Garry Spector

The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra mourns the loss of Maestro Julius Rudel, who passed away today at the age of 93.  He was a beloved figure in the New York opera scene for almost 70 years.

Maestro Rudel was one of the founding fathers of New York City Opera from its formation in the 1940s.  He spearheaded the growth of City Opera while Music Director (until 1980) and was a driving force behind the careers of Beverly Sills, Placido Domingo, Sherrill Milnes and Samuel Ramey among countless others.

He made his MET debut in October, 1978, conducting Massenet’s “Werther” with Placido Domingo and Elena Obraztsova.  He went on to conduct 269 performances of 20 works at the MET, including the MET premiere of Handel’s “Samson” with Jon Vickers in 1986.  He conducted 42 performances of “Madama Butterfly”, 37 of “Les Contes d’Hoffmann” and 30 of La Boheme.  He conducted “Il Trovatore” on the MET’s tour of Japan in 1988 and was a familiar presence at the MET’s Parks series.  His final performance with the MET took place in Montclair, NJ in 2005, conducting “Samson et Dalila”.

Many of us fondly remember the charm and élan he brought to his performances with us as well as the dignity he brought to his craft and the mutual respect which we held for each other.  

We also enjoyed seeing a more personal side of him:  it is an ongoing tradition within the MET Orchestra that each March Elaine Douvas, Principal Oboist and fine baker, bakes one of her delicious cakes and brings it, along with champagne on ice, to the MET Opera Cafeteria for an elegant “March Birthdays” celebration.  This takes place every year during one of the intermissions of a performance sometime in the month of March.  Maestro Rudel shared a March birthday and was always issued an invitation to the party when his schedule was such that he was in the house at that time.  He never missed a party, and he so obviously enjoyed fraternizing with us.

a "March Birthdays" celebration with Julius Rudel

a "March Birthdays" celebration with Julius Rudel